Sunday, March 31, 2013

Trailblazer Routeburn Nutrition Plan

I read about this service on the recommendation of previous Routeburn Classic competitors. There is a good introduction to what the program offers on the Routeburn Nutrition page of the Routeburn Classic website and more information on the Trailblazer Site.

Signing up for the plan was easy, simply registering and paying through the Routeburn Classic website.  I got an email from Trailblazer nutrition within 24 hours.  I filled out the form asking about training and current nutrition practices, and received my personalized nutrition plan three days later.  

The plan is fantastic, providing much more comprehensive information than I have ever been able to find online, and best of all the advice is tailored to my specific training requirements.  I have learned heaps about carb-loading (and how to do it correctly), hydration, race fueling and correct training nutrition.  There are heaps meal suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner, making it really easy to make sensible nutrition choices.  I really like how the plan offers realistic advice, allowing me to eat lollies (if I wish) but providing the sorts of portion sizes that will keep me healthy and on target for my Routeburn Classic goals.

I had been concerned that the price was a bit steep, but after receiving and implementing the plan, I am happy that I have received value for money.  Trailblazer Nutrition provide on going support and advice, and are very interactive, supportive and quick to respond.

I have often thought that my race fueling has been a limiting factor in my running, so it is fantastic to learn how I am better prepare myself for racing.

If you are interested in getting a plan, I recommend getting it as far in advance as possible, this gives you an opportunity to practice and perfect the nutrition for you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One Month Till The Routeburn Classic

Excitingly and terrifyingly, it is exactly one month until I will be running the Routeburn Classic!!!!!!  Hopefully my stamina and technique continue on the up-and-up between now and then.  I spent my whole run today fantasizing about running on the Routeburn - what the weather will be like, the views (if the weather permits) and the shear joy of running through such a stunning landscape, and the accomplishment of crossing the finish line.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Mt Lowry Challenge

Aptly named, the Mt Lowry Challenge, was as its name suggests a challenge.  This race was good, and it was bad, and it reinforced the importance of positive mindset and attitude for challenging and difficult runs.

I left home while it was still dark, I love the early morning, it is the most magical time of day, watching the sky change colour, the mists clinging to the valleys and rising from streams and rivers, the pale, cold morning, the flush of pinks and orange as the sun rises, and the golden warmth of the early morning sun.

Days Bay
The race was based at Days Bay in Wellington, a place I have been meaning to visit for a long time.  The water side setting reminded me of the Otago Peninsular.  A lot of runners from the local community, family, business and running club groups, circulated and talked amongst themselves.  Mt Lowry, clad in thick, green native bush set the back drop.

I have recently purchased and received my Routeburn Nutrition plan, and put it to it's first test for this race. The plan is comprehensive, educational, and definitely value for money.  I hope to iron out the creases of implementing it in the next few weeks.  I ate more than I normally would for my pre-race breakfast (although I possibly should have eaten it earlier), and had Powerade in my Camelbak and a couple of gels to boost my fueling through the race.

We set of, the first part of the race designed to thin out the pack, followed the winding water-side road for about 4km before the off-road, bush track assent began.  The other athletes were fast, and belted off along the flat.  I must mention at this point that headphones and ipods were not allowed for this race (for safety purposes), but I like having the focusing factor of tuning into my music, and out of what the other runners are doing.

I ran the flat section quite fast, and it was a good warm up for my quads which were still quite sore from the Body Pump class that I did on Friday (note to self: avoid doing hundreds of squats and lunges with weights a couple of days before a hill race!).  Once we hit the hill, I changed down a couple of gears and got stuck into my hill running (nearly everyone else I could see in front immediately started walking).  The first part of the track wasn't too steep, but quickly gave way to very steep climbs (steeper than the Routeburn).  I toiled upwards for a long time, my breath seeming horrendously loud and ragged without the dulling effects of headphones, and I was sure that mostly I sounded like the death rattle of a slaughtered animal.  Not that it mattered, the walkers sounded the same.

One thing that I find really hard, is that when I get tired, if I see someone walking in front of me, I somehow feel that this gives me permission to walk too, and after a while I was gasping so hard that I gave in and walked, and then I started kicking myself (mistake!) (by the way, this was metaphorical kicking, not actual kicking due to some sort of misguided hill climbing technique).

Not much further on, the ridge was reached.  The track flattened out for a while, and I belted off again, grateful that I was fast to recover normal breathing, and able to run, even after such a tiring climb.  The track was shrouded from the world by thick bush, and it was a pity, as the views must of been stunning, although all I glimpsed was patches of blue.  It was probably just as well that I wasn't able to be distracted by views, as the ground became more pitted by rocks and roots, and concentration levels consequently increased to try and avoid injury, or worse, falling off the side.

A succession of steep (nearly hands and knees) climbs, followed by the more challenging and equally as steep descents carried me along the ridge.  Every time I slowed to a walk (or I was passed) I chastised myself and my lack of training (I have no equal training ground at home, although it would be very good if I did!), and worried about my preparedness for the Routeburn.

Tree-roots a plenty
I stumbled on (quite literally), hating having other runners behind me, as I felt they might fall on me, and that I was holding them up with my painfully slow downhill running-on-tree-roots-and-only-barely-managing-not-to-face-plant technique.  Mostly I felt really defeated, and that my training was amounting to nothing, the more I worried, the worse I felt (mistake!).  And it was ridiculous, because when I think back to my first race (Rimutaka Incline), and how difficult I had found that relatively gentle incline, and how I had managed to basically run up a mountain, I have actually improved heaps.

I think that the hardest part of the run, was just the highly technical nature of the track, it was hard to maintain rhythm over the roots and potholes, even at a walk.  Of all the tramps I have done, the difficultly of the Mt Lowery track was definitely up there, and I was attempting to run it.  Eventually I came to the descent, but this was so steep and slippery, that it was harder than the uphill.  About a quarter of the way down, I slipped and fell, my left leg under me, and my already sore quads given extra strain.  The three or four other runners behind me, just dashed on by without as much as an "are you ok?".  I grazed my hands, and bruised my ankle, but mostly my last bubbles of psychological strength were temporarily burst, and I started to cry (mistake!).  I quickly realized that trying to negotiate this hell-track descent with blurry eyes would lead to certain death, so I stopped crying, and kept going.

After scrambling down the cliff face, the track eventually gave way to a beautiful wide trail, that lead back to the start/finish area.  I could run again properly and started to feel a little better.  The two runners ahead of me, must have been famous locals, as their journey across the finish line was accompanied by cheers and clapping, by the time I had arrived behind them, the applause had dwindled to a solitary half-hearted hand clap.  Don't you people know, that it's the lone competitors and the people that no body knows that need the most support!

I thought that having the race coordinator shake the hand of everyone that crossed the finish line was a nice touch though.

There were worse casualties on the course than me though, with cuts, scrapes and pulled appendages a plenty.  I even saw a couple of place winners claim their prizes with bandages from shoulder to finger-tip, and bandaged heads.  And looking back on it, falling during a mountain race is a bit of a rite-of passage, so I suppose that a small baptism of fire may be beneficial for the sake of experience.

I finished in under two hours, a good achievement considering that I have to cover the same amount of distance over less steep, and from memory, less challenging terrain in the same sort of time for the first section of the Routeburn.  I just have to do as much hill training as possible, and keep working on my stamina and breathing and strength.  Every now and again, I have an unpleasant run, its not due to the course, or the terrain, it just due to what I tell myself while I am running, and its just a pity that it happened during a race.  But I never wanted to quit running, or stop trying so I suppose that is something.

Things I have learned:
  • Mindset can make or break you, keeping positive is vital, music helps this focus, but if I can't listen to my ipod, I need to praise myself and keep my spirits up
  • Focusing on my own performance and progress is key, the running is for me, there are always going to be fitter, faster people that have better or more appropriate training grounds, that doesn't mean that my training hasn't been useful or effective
  • Completing a challenge is more important than being fast
  • Crying + running = dangerous combination
  • Training on technically challenging terrain will improve my ability to compete on it

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Frustration and Elation

Its a been a long, run-free week.  Not running has sucked.  But I was a bit sick and thought that I should let myself heal before I stressed by body too much.  I reasoned that a week of not running, was better than prolonged illness which would have a much longer term effect on my training and fitness.

However, all is well again, and I am elated to go for my first run in over seven days today.  The weather is cool and has been raining, so it will be be fun to hit the trails in some mud, and feel the enjoyment (and endorphin release) of running again.


Ahhh, such a good run.  I inadvertently left my ipod at home, so ran without music, and it was nice to be able to focus on my breathing, and just listen to the sound of the bush and my feet on the trail. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Big Four-Oh

As I am sure you can imagine (and as the Routeburn Classic draws closer), I am getting a bit nervous.  I have been training reasonably hard, but I am starting to panic that I am not doing enough, and wont have the fitness required to drag myself across the finish line with some dignity (hell, I don't even need the dignity, I just want to finish).

I know that I will require mental as well as physical stamina, and I know from my previous racing that the more practice I have at a distance, the more manageable subsequent attempts at the same distance become.  I obviously can't train regularly on the sort of terrain or with the same intensity that I will when I race, but the more I practice, hopefully, the better I will be prepared on race day.

With this in mind I have been running hills nearly every day, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, working on strength and balance.  But the mental and physical stamina side of things is not something that I have focused a lot of attention on.  So I decided it was time for me to go for a long run.  I thought that 40km over undulating terrain would be a good place to start.  Previously the longest distance I have achieved was somewhere around the 30km mark.  I was going to run 40km on Sunday.

My Saturday night sleep was plagued with the sort of dreams you get before a really important job interview or exam, urgently trying to get to run my 40km, but with constant glitches and plot twists, so that I didn't even get to the start!

My alarm went off.  I had with the best intentions, meant to get up and out the door as soon as possible so that I could maximize my time running in the cooler morning temperatures.  It was still pitch dark outside (where have the summer mornings gone all of a sudden?).  I re-set my alarm for 7.

Alarm. The sun was still below the horizon, but the sky was light. Time to get up and run.  As per usual my night-before-preparation-routine had been non-existent, but I got everything together pretty quickly (thanks to my new and very handy running gear organization system - essentially separate bins for tops, pants, socks and 'other') including my most recent acquisitions, a 1L bladder for my Camelbak (or Camel-Toe as my sister calls it)(thanks B), and my new roadies (what better way to break in a new pair of shoes than with a long run).  Breakfast, should I skip it? I decided I had better not, and made some very liquidy porridge for easy consumption and (hopefully) easy digestion.

Out the door.

After a quick reconnaissance in the general area, I located the start of the track I was planning to run, and was on my way.  The sun was peaking over the top of the mountains, the air was gloriously cool, and I was running.  The trail skirted the city perimeter, following a stream and later the river.  My plan was to run for 20km, then turn around and run back.  The first 8km of the track followed the top of the stop-bank, and my elevated vantage position gave me beaut views out over the city, the golden mountains and the dry arable plains.  The current droughty conditions has turned my local landscape the familiar colours of beautiful Central Otago, a picturesque reminder of home.  The height above people's houses also gave me some lovely glimpses into elegant gardens, abundant private vegetable enterprises, and of course the very opposite.

Post exercise swim - horsey style
The first 9ish km went pretty quickly.  The cool of the morning clung to the shadowed areas of the path, and I was feeling really good and comfortable.  The last section of the first part of the trail (which I had never run on before) circumnavigated the large horse racing course and stables (including horse pool), following the exercise pathways that trainers and jockeys were using in the cool morning.  Past the horses, the trail joined up with the main river track, which I was familiar with.  The day was starting to heat up a bit, but there were plenty of shade giving trees on the next section.

River side track
Wow, the day really was getting warm.  I was drinking a lot, but sweating far more.  I had slurped down my first gel of the day, but was worried about my electrolyte levels, so decided to pick up a Powerade on the return journey.  I was lovely to see so many families out enjoying the morning sun, and there were hundreds of people on bikes, kids on scooters and dogs racing their owners along the riverside esplanade. The path wound alongside the river, exposing me to the beating sun as I ran down the last 5km of my first 20km.  This area was new to me again, and is definitely an area for further exploration.

20km.  It had taken me an extra hour on my 1/2 marathon PB time to run the first 20km.  I wasn't pushing myself too hard, and I knew that the challenge of the day was yet to come.  I had my next gel, and gave myself a short walking break before cracking into the second half.  I was hot, but still feeling really good.

25km.  I was happily sucking away on my hydration-mouth-piece, when suddenly I was sucking on nothing.  I had drunk a whole liter and was still about a km away from where I could refill and reward myself with the earlier promised Powerade.  It is good to know that a 1L bladder will last me 25km on undulating terrain on a really hot day.

Bladder Aside: I have never drunk more than about 1.5L of my 3L bladder on a run.  If I only partially fill the 3L it sloshes about noisily, and the weight is carried very low down my back.  If I fill the 3L then I am carrying more weight than I tend to drink.  But the 1L sits up high on my back, and actually seemed to make the pack fit more comfortably - also leaves me with more volume inside for carrying other things.

I reached the cafe and refilled my bladder.  However, much to my disappointment, there was no Powerade or any such similar beverage for sale.  But I had promised myself a cold, sugary drink, so I was determined to have one.  I was tossing up between a carbonated (bubbles+running=probably a bad combination) and lemony juice drink, opting for the lemon.  I swigged back the lemony goodness, before hitting the trail again.

1300I was nearing the end of the River section, the sun was high over head, the merciful shade of earlier in the day had disappeared, and I could have sworn that as my timepiece struck one, the temperature notched up a couple more degrees.

30km.  My feet were starting to hurt, possibly a symptom of running, probably a symptom of the sole rigidity of the new shoes (which were in every other way amazing and comfortable), and it was that dull ache of bone-soreness that you get after being on your feet tramping all day with a 10kg pack on your back.  To circumnavigate the racecourse, or to shortcut across the front?  A shortcut would make me short of the 40km.  I decided to do the full distance.  But I gave myself another short walking reward-break. 

I had only about 7km to go, but I was sure that the temperature was still rising.  Even the wind was hot.  I figured that I was probably only about an hour away from finishing.  But I also knew that this was going to be the hardest part.  I was happy to note in my hot and tired state, that I had thus-far completed the 32km distance of the Routeburn Classic.  Wicked, I can do 32km when its not over a mountain range, a relevantish test.

My feet were getting sorer, but running (or at this point jog-shuffling) was less painful than walking.  I discovered this when I decided to take another short walking break just before the 35km mark.  My ipod changed songs and I walked, and I could hear whimpering, was there a tramped and injured animal near by?  No, that was me.  I resumed running and the pain receded to a comfortable ache.

At some point the GPS function of my watch gave up (it ran out of battery, more due to me not charging it before running, rather that it objecting to me taking so long).  I knew that I had less than 3.7km remaining (the last reading before it switched off), but I didn't know exactly how much.  I couldn't stop even if I wanted too - walking would mean more pain for longer, and besides I had to make it to my car to get home.  But I didn't want to stop.  I was tired.  I was way hotter and sweatier than anyone deserves to be on a Sunday.  My feet hurt.  My muscles felt fatigued.  My joints were aching.  But apart from that I felt ok.  I could keep going.  I was determined to keep going.

I found myself singing along to the music in my ipod "you can do it", it didn't matter which song was playing, the tune was just keeping the beat to my self encouragement.  (It was amazing how I could fit my mantra to a variety of tunes - Vivaldi's Spring, Temper Trap's Fader, Rudimental's Not Giving In - actually I just sang the original lyrics with that one).

I rounded a corner, and the last stretch of trail danced ahead of me in the perpetual heat haze.  There was no one else about.  The multitude of trail users from earlier in the day had evaporated (yes, I did use a heat related pun to emphasize my point), seeking cooler respite, while I completed the last few hundred meters of my 40km.  Large industrial buildings lining this portion of the track blocked the hot wind, and I baked even more as I headed towards the finish.

40km.  I reached my car (parked in full sun, and probably the only place that could offer me a further raise in temperature).  I just sat for a while.  It was nice to sit down.

Overall I am thrilled to have completed the 40km that I set out to run, I am pleased that I could go so long (running for nearly 7 hours), and keep myself going mentally.  I couldn't have asked for this run to go better.  I wanted to be challenged, I wanted it to hurt, I wanted to have to push myself, because I know that when I run the Routeburn Classic, I am going to experience all of that times a billion.  The only thing I can do is keep training, keep practicing, and keep enjoying it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It has been a busy week of running, shoe buying, Routeburn Classic organization, university attendance, race entering and gym classes.

Hardened CXWORX Athletes (photo: LES MILS)
I have been focusing on more hill and trail work as I figure that this is the best way for me to build my muscle strength and stamina for the Routeburn Classic race.  I have been supplementing my running with Les Mils Body Balance and CXWORX (core strengthening) classes.  Body Balance is a zen mixture of yoga, pilates and tai chi, and I love these classes which focus on a combination of strength, balance and flexibility.  The core strengthening CXWORX is a more challenging and fast paced work out using resistance bands, weights and an inordinate amount of ab work.  I attended my first CXWORX yesterday, and hid myself at the very back of the class, I always feel a bit embarrassed about my lack of coordination and I didn't want to distract the rest of the participants by constantly falling over and collapsing from exhaustion in front of the hardened and athletic class regulars.  After 20min of ab and quad strengthening, we lay on the floor to balance the routine with some back strengthening work. I toiled a way, and rose at the end of the class to discover (to my dismay) a veritable puddle of sweat on the floor where I had been working out.  Thank goodness I was at the back of the class.  As a preventative measure I procrastinated over packing away my gear, skillfully blocking said puddle from the view of everyone else, until I was sure that sufficient evaporation had occurred to let me off the hook.
Something like what I look like after CXWORX

After the CXWORX class, I went for a trail run.  I have been expanding my knowledge and repertoire of the running trails available where I regularly run, so I can comfortably cover more than 10km of mixed terrain in the heat of the day, and always have beaut views and wild surroundings in which to enjoy my run.  It is awesome to feel my fitness levels increasing, even just in the last week, some extra training and distance seems to be improving my speed and stamina.

Excitingly, I have  sorted out my flights and accommodation for the Routeburn Classic.  It is a relief to have everything booked, and to know that my supporters (cheers M & D) will be coming to cheer me on at the finish.  Alternatively they can join the search party to look for my exhausted and kea-pecked carcass if it turns out that I have bitten off far more than I can chew....maybe I should wait to jest until after the event!  The only major thing that I have left to sort out is whether or not to purchase the tailored nutrition plan that is offered specifically for Routeburn Classic runnings.  I think that the plan sounds pretty comprehensive and I would be a rather worth while investment, especially as I am still feeling my way a bit with the race-fueling side of things.

Introducing my new "ROADIES"
I also bought two new pairs of shoes.  They are the same make and model as I already own: Mizuno Wave Ascend 7.  I LOVE these shoes, the ride is so comfortable and the support is perfect for my feet.  However after around 700km, my original old faithfuls are starting to loose a bit of grip and rigidity.  I  figured that getting two pairs would mean that I could keep one for trails and the other for roads, that way they should last doubly as long, and my trail shoes should retain more tread.  Awesomely, I was able to get one pair in the old (and brilliant) colours (these will remain my trail companions) and one pair in the new (and slightly less exciting colour combo!).  The new ones are my roadies.  However, after a grueling 40km break-in run (more on that another time), the new colours have really grown on me.  Is it possible to have two most favorite pairs of shoes?
...and my faithful trail companions 

I haven't quite worn out my old pair, so I will keep using them for trail running, and then break in the new pair, and hopefully have them nice and limber in plenty of time for the ROUTEBURN CLASSIC!

And last but not least, I have been entering a  few more races, the Porirua Grand Traverse, which is a couple of weeks before the Routeburn, and a few trail races for the months after.  Now that I am back to being an impoverished university student I am tossing up between traveling (often quite a distance) to races (can be a bit pricey), but which I love (atmosphere, motivation, people, practice), or saving my pennies and training on some of the fantastic near-home training grounds that I have discovered over the summer.  It is really nice to have some fab hills, and some great views to run with.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

6 Weeks Till The Routeburn Classic

The realization has dawned that the Routeburn Classic is only about six weeks away.  Time to ramp up the training.  I thought that going back to uni would mean that I was less active and would have less time for training, but happily almost the complete opposite is true.  My lectures are so well spaced and I have so much time to study, that I also have heaps of time to get out on the trails and roads during the day.  I have upped my weekly distance a bit, and also have access to the fantastic uni gym, and especially the Les Mills Fitness Classes, so I have been making good use of the Body Balance (yoga/Pilates), and cardio classes and core strengh training to round out my training repertoire.